Manuel Goyanes, Porismita Borah and Homero Gil de Zúñiga have published the article “Social Media Filtering and Democracy: Effects of Social Media News Use and Uncivil Political Discussions on Social Media Unfriending” in Computers and Human Behavior.
In today’s progressively polarized society, social media users are increasingly exposed to blatant uncivil comments, dissonant views, and controversial news contents, both from their peers and the media organizations they follow. Recent scholarship on selective avoidance suggests that citizens when exposed to contentious stimuli tend to either neglect, avoid, or by-pass such content, a practice scholarly known as users’ filtration tactics or unfriending. Drawing upon a nationally representative panel survey from the United States (W1 = 1,338/W2 = 511) fielded in 2019/2020, this study seeks to a) examine whether social media news use is associated to exposure to uncivil political discussions, and 2) explore the ways in which both constructs causally affect users’ unfriending behavior. Finally, the study investigates the contingent moderating role of uncivil political discussion in energizing the relationship between social media use for news and unfriending. Our findings first find support for the idea that social media news use directly activates citizens’ uncivil discussions and unfriending, while uncivil political discussion directly triggers unfriending behavior and significantly contributes to intensify the effect of social media news use over citizens’ unfriending levels. These findings add to current conversations about the potential motivations and deleterious effects of social media filtering in contemporary democracies.